Oct. 27, 2022
Vinod Bidarkoppa, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Sam’s Club
At Sam’s Club we are using AI to ensure members across clubs have pumpkin pie on their table this holiday season. So, how do we determine how many pies members will buy in almost 600 clubs?
AI and connected intelligence have transformed the way Sam’s Club operates, helping us get the right assortment in the right clubs at the right time. It all starts with our machine learning (ML) forecasting model which considers things like weather, trends, events, holidays, shelf life and proper substitutions down to the hour. This helps us know how many pies to order from our suppliers, and when, what and how many to ship to our clubs.
Using our Fresh Sales App, embedded with AI, we are able to predict (hourly in some cases) how many pies need to be stocked to keep up with member demand and reduce food waste. With accurate AI forecasting, last year we sold enough pies to cover the length of 450 football fields while staying ahead of customer demand and reducing food waste.
It’s not just pumpkin pie we are focused on though, ML forecasts are generated for each item at each club - which is especially important in making sure our members can find top gifts, décor and more. These forecasts also ensure inventory in our fulfillment centers arrives with enough lead time to ship items to the clubs.
In anticipation of truck deliveries, our autonomous floor scrubbers , which are now chain-wide, scan club shelves with mounted cameras and sends “hot item” alerts to the backroom so associates can prioritize the receipt of items most at risk of selling out. Once the truck arrives, our ClubIQ tool prioritizes the order associates need to unload the pies and other items from the truck. The system also analyzes historical item sales behavior for upcoming holiday events and tells the associates which items to put on the floor first based on the popularity of that item – down to the club level.
This intelligence allows us to proactively manage our clubs in an efficient manner. Inventory Scan assures items are available and easy to locate in the club, freeing up time for our associates to focus on members and the shopping experience they deserve.
It’s a connected ecosystem. All this data feeds back into our models and continuously learns from member behaviors and trends to better anticipate demand for the future - like having the right number of pumpkin pies in our clubs for our members this holiday season.